COG 97: Researching "The Coldbrook Tragedy" (Part 1 of 4)

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) A hundred years before the Andrea Yates and Susan Smith cases made national news, a similar but mostly forgotten tragedy occurred in the sleepy little town of Coldbrook Springs, Massachusetts. In 1901 "The Coldbrook Tragedy," as was it was called also made national news. I became intrigued by the story a number of years ago after reading an article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette about the case. I decided to research some of the people involved in the case for the 97th Carnival of Genealogy and for a writing project I hope to work on later this year. "The Coldbrook Tragedy" is not related to my personal genealogical research in any way.

A Brief Overview of the Case

On March 21, 1901 in Coldbrook Springs, sometime in the early afternoon, a Mrs. Elizabeth A. Naramore killed her six children one by one, oldest to youngest, with a club and an ax in the kitchen of the family home. She then, unsuccessfully attempted suicide. Elizabeth, also known as Lizzie, later plead guilty in Worcester Superior Court to the murder of one child, daughter Ethel Marion Naramore, age 9. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Mrs. Naramore was sentenced to life in the state hospital in Worcester. On November 30, 1906, after spending five years at the mental hospital, she was judged to be sane and released.

Some Details Concerning the Case

First some background on the case as told in the Telegram & Gazette (T&G). I accessed the articles listed below from the ProQuest database, Massachusetts Newsstand via the Worcester Public Library (WPL) website. I used the articles in the T&G for basic information on the case and as a starting place for my research.

According to the T&G Elizabeth Craig Naramore was a native of St. Andrews, New Brunswick. At the age of 19 she met and married Frank Naramore of Baldwinville, Massachusetts even though her friends and family were opposed to the match. The couple moved to Coldbrook Springs, near the town of Barre in central Massachusetts. Mrs. Naramore was described as a hard worker and a loving mother. Husband Frank Naramore, who worked at the nearby Parker Lumber Company, was a well paid worker but also an undependable wastrel, abusive, and a womanizer. While Frank wasted the money he earned, Lizzie and their six children lived in poverty. The children were: Ethel Marion, age 9; Charles Edward, age 7; Walter Craig, age 5; Chester Irving, age 4; Elizabeth, age 3; and Lena Blanche, age 12 months.

Shortly before the tragedy occurred, Lizzie reached out to the Overseers of the Poor in Baldwinville for assistance. When the overseers visited the Naramore home they determined that the Naramores situation was so dire, due to the dilapidated condition of the home and the lack of food for the family, the decision was made to take the children away. Five of the children were to be placed with foster families and the youngest, an infant, would be sheltered at a poorhouse in Holden, Massachusetts.

Before the authorities were able to take her children away, in an act of desperation, Lizzie killed them one by one and then tried to kill herself. She survived the suicide attempt, was tried and plead guilty to the murder of her oldest child Ethel Marion Naramore. She was never tried for the murders of the other children. Elizabeth Naramore was committed to the state mental hospital. After her release she left central Massachusetts to work as a clerk in a Boston department store, returning once in 1907 to visit the graves of her children. Frank Naramore left Barre after the children's funeral and the subsequent trial of his wife and was never heard from again. At the funeral for the children, the Reverend Charles Talmage, pastor of the Barre Congregational Church, gave an impassioned speech which placed the blame for the situation squarely on Frank Naramore as an abusive father and the community at large for turning a blind eye to the what was known to be a situation of abuse and neglect.

See Also:

COG 97: Researching "The Coldbrook Tragedy" (Part 2 of 4)
COG 97: Researching "The Coldbrook Tragedy" (Part 3 of 4)
COG 97: Researching "The Coldbrook Tragedy" (Part 4 or 4)


Bradford L. Miner. (2002, July 31). Barre plans dedication of Naramore memorial :[RT. 9 WEST Edition]. Telegram & Gazette,p. B4. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from Massachusetts Newsstand. (Document ID: 144296651).

Bradford L. Miner. (2002, June 30). A final tribute ; Six slain children will be forgotten no longer :[ALL Edition]. Telegram & Gazette,p. A1. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from Massachusetts Newsstand. (Document ID: 130795151).

Bradford L. Miner. (2002, August 5). A town bears witness ; Barre memorial honors six slain children :[ALL Edition]. Telegram & Gazette,p. B1. Retrieved August 23, 2010, from Massachusetts Newsstand. (Document ID: 146878981).


Bill West said...

Great research work and a great piece
of writing to present it, Cynthia!

Cynthia Shenette said...

Thanks Bill. I appreciate the comment and your nice words regarding my writing!